Lefty ThinkProgress website closes, lays off staff
One of the purported leaders of left-wing online journalism closed its doors yesterday, laying off its unionized staff. Sam Stein reports for the Daily Beast:
ThinkProgress, the influential news site that rose to prominence in the shadow of the Bush administration and helped define progressivism during the Obama years, is shutting down.
The outlet, which served as an editorially independent project of the Democratic Party think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), will stop current operations on Friday and be converted into a site where CAP scholars can post.
Financially, these are very tough times for political websites, including American Thinker. Advertising rates have declined more than 50% from their peak, and for us, survival means tightening our belts and working even harder. But unlike us, ThinkProgress was always heavily subsidized by its nonprofit parent, whose list of big-bucks donors is impressive — or scary, if you are trying to compete without the backing of billionaires, big foundations, and even the Embassy of Japan.
And it was the cutoff of further support from its nonprofit sugar daddy that did in T.P.:
Top officials at CAP had been searching for a buyer to take over ThinkProgress, which has run deficits for years, and according to sources there were potentially three serious buyers in the mix recently. But in a statement to staff, Navin Nayak, the executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said the site was ultimately unable to secure a patron.
"Given that we could find no new publisher, we have no other real option but to fold the ThinkProgress website back into CAP's broader online presence with a focus on analysis of policy, politics, and news events through the lens of existing CAP and CAP Action staff experts," said Nayak. "Conversations on how to do so are just beginning, but we will seek to reinvent it as a different platform for progressive change."
There is no indication of why CAP decided to cut the flow of money to its propaganda organ. Have they decided that with corporate media like CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times pushing progressive ideas so aggressively, there is no point in spending millions of dollars a year on duplicating their progressivism?
The sums of tax-deductible money spent keeping T.P. alive are mind-boggling to me:
Internal documents obtained by The Daily Beast showed ThinkProgress facing a $3-million delta between revenues and expenses in 2019, of which $350,000 had come via a shortfall in ad revenue.
Ads must be a relatively small portion of their funding. What a luxury!
But belt-tightening was not a course that CAP wanted to pursue in order to keep the ideas flowing:
Privately, staffers and some alumni argued that, with some budget reductions, CAP could continue funding operations through the reallocation of donor dollars. ThinkProgress' staff had ballooned to more than 40 before the number began to dwindle this year. And within these quarters, there has been ample suspicion as to why CAP officials have been so alarmed over the current state of financial distress when the site has lived in this limbo for virtually its entire existence.
Translation: T.P. had grown fat and happy with rich people supporting their advocacy. And getting tax deductions for it. And the only solution sought was to find another wealthy sugar daddy.
But CAP officials said that the long-term outlook for ThinkProgress was dire. A few months ago, they let it be known that they were looking to sell the site off to a prospective buyer.
According to Nayak, CAP had "conversations with more than 20 potential new publishers, including several extended dialogues." But, he added, "broad trends" in digital news media "proved insurmountable in finding ThinkProgress a new home."
As editor of a website struggling to stay alive in the face of ad rates cut by more than half, it's hard for me to be happy about the demise of another publication, even one whose ideology and values are so antagonistic to my own. But "live by the sugar daddy, die by the sugar daddy" is a danger that all who depend on patronage by the wealthy inherently face. Think Progress died because its patron refused to keep writing checks.